November 1, 2012

A House Divided




It may seem like this is coming out of left field, but hey, baseball season just finished so roll with me on this.

In mid-September I was invited to attend the Professional Bull Riders event in Springfield, MO. My invitation came from my role as editor of our sister publication, Dirt Toys Magazine. Kawasaki is one of the sponsors of the PBR this season and I was invited to the Springfield event just to see how the sponsorship works and enjoy the PBR event.

The trip was very reminiscent of a trip I went on back in August 2002, when Ski-Doo invited the snowmobile media to attend the Brickyard 400 NASCAR at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. At the time, Ski-Doo was showing off its 007 sled that was part of the James Bond movie Die Another Day. It was a lot of fun, as was the PBR event.

During my first ever PBR experience I met a lot of people, including PBR officials, the bullfighters and several of the athletes. (Yes, most definitely athletes. You have to be one tough—and in shape—cowboy to ride a hulking 1500-pound bull for 8 seconds.)

I came away from the PBR event impressed with how genuine everyone is, especially the riders. Many in the nearly sold-out 11,000-seat JQH Arena on the Missouri State University campus are much the same I’m guessing. I only interacted with a few fans but they were pretty genuine too.

The PBR is a pretty big deal but the people were very down to earth.

Those folks reminded me a lot of snowmobilers and much of the snowmobile community. While we snowmobilers are sometimes villainized because we choose to ride a motorized vehicle on public lands (go figure), I have long contended that snowmobilers are very down to earth. Snowmobilers are not only some of the nicest people I know, but also some of the most generous. Most of the time we look after each other.

That’s why it’s so surprising when a rift breaks out in some circles in our industry. I’m certainly not implying that we never and should never disagree with each other. Debate is pretty healthy and sometimes needed. Most of the time we work it out.

But this past summer I’ve heard of two or three instances where that rift has become somewhat of a chasm. I know that some people are getting a little feisty these days because of the things that are going on in the snowmobile industry, namely a lack of snow last winter and a rocky economy that has caused not only snowmobile sales to drop but also sled registrations. That means less money for a lot of things, including local clubs and state associations. Less money has some groups a little edgy.

I’m not here to debate either side of these arguments. These groups have their reasons for disagreement. I will say that some of the motivations I’m hearing for the disagreements are a little questionable. And they don’t all have to do with money.

As most of you know, we’re a pretty small industry. A house divided could be a pretty big deal for clubs, dealers, state and provincial associations, even the manufacturers. Infighting in our industry does little to promote the sport and keep it viable. I know from personal experience that such infighting alienates certain segments of sledders.

Do I want everyone to join hands and sing “Kumbaya?” Not hardly. Perhaps, though, those involved in those various debates could examine their motivation and ask themselves these questions: What are they trying to accomplish? Will it help or hurt the snowmobile industry? Is the debate being driven by a small minority in the group (club, association, etc.) or is it the consensus of a larger group?

Finally, is there a better way to go about it?

I think there probably is.







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